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Thoughts on a WoT re-read, and reaction to first read of ToM


Paul H
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Hi folks,

 

I am pretty much new to the forum here. I did post a very few times over a year ago, but I have stayed away from the forum since Towers of Midnight was released, in order to avoid spoilers. You see, until recently, I had read through the Wheel of Time only once, starting way back in 1995, and continuing as each new book came out, up to The Gathering Storm. Then, shortly before the release of Towers of Midnight, I decided to do a re-read of the whole series. That re-read took me over a year, but I have finally finished it, including finishing Towers of Midnight for the first time just this evening.

 

I am now anxious to read some of the discussions about ToM that I have been avoiding for the past year or so. (Does anyone want to share a link to a particularly interesting thread that I should read?) But first, I thought it might be interesting (at least to me, maybe to others as well) to type up some of my thoughts on the re-read, and especially on Towers of Midnight, without any prior influence from other discussions of the book. So, here goes:

 

 

Thoughts on the Re-Read:

 

1. This series is LONG. And I really mean LOOOOOONG. Of course this is not news to anyone here. But reading the entire series (minus the last book) from start to almost finish, without reading any other books in between, REALLY gave me a perspective on just how long it is. I LOVE these books, and their complexity and scope is a big part of what makes them great. But at the same time, there is something wrong if you read a series straight through, and still you are constantly having to try to remember who a character is, or when two characters last met, or does character X know about event Y, etc. For example, when Mat, Perrin, and Thom were catching up at the inn in ToM, I simply could not remember when or where was the last time Mat and Perrin had seen each other, or even which book it was in -- and these are two of the most central characters in the series.

 

2. I sincerely doubt that I will ever re-read this series again, simply because of the length. But if I do, I know with 99.9% certainty that I will NEVER again read through Perrin's storyline from the time he leaves Rand to deal with the Prophet, to the time that he reaches the Jehannah road north of Malden (i.e., from somewhere around book 7 to the start of book 13). On my first read-through, I suspected that Jordan included the whole storyline of dealing with the Prophet and rescuing Faile from the Shaido simply to give Perrin something to do while Rand, Mat, Egwene, and the others did things that were actully interesting and important to the story. And after the re-read I am sure that I was right. :-)

 

 

Thoughts on Towers of Midnight:

 

1. How did Cadsuane make a gateway to Perrin's army to get Tam al'Thor? I really thought that the dreamspike was already in place by the time that we see Tam tell Perrin that he has to leave, so that a gateway should not have worked then. Is this a hole in the plot, or am I mistaken about the timing of the dreamspike?

 

2. The timeline in the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the book was very confusing. Of course Perrin being many days behind the other characters was the biggest problem (more on that below). But even with Egwene, Gawyn, Elayne, Mat, and Rand, it was hard to keep track of when various events happened in relation to each other. For a while, I actually wondered if this was done on purpose, as a way of emphasizing the Dark One's touch on the world. After all, if he can re-arrange corridors within buildings, perhaps he can re-arrange time itself.

 

3. Perrin's timeline: It probably would have been better if many of the Perrin/Galad chapters had been placed near the beginning of the book (or in the previous book), at least up to the point of Tam's departure. That way, Sanderson could have avoided having Tam appear out of order (i.e., first we see him with Rand later in the timeline, then later we see him with Perrin earlier in the timeline). Also, when Perrin was in the World of Dreams, moving the dreamspike, I was very mystified and surprised to find that Perrin had suddenly caught up to Egwene's timeline. Even when Perrin saw the White Tower in the distance, I did not immediately make the connection that he was arriving there at the same time that Egwene and the others were battling Mesaana and the Black Ajah. It wasn't until Perrin saw flashes of light or something in the White Tower that I suddenly realized, hey wait, you mean Perrin magically caught up with Egwene? I thought he was still two weeks behind everyone else!

 

4. Aviendha's visions of the future of the Aiel, with them being slowly obliterated by the Seanchan, really disturbed me. I am anxious to read some discussions about this, but here are my thoughts: Either she saw THE future, or she saw a possible future. If it was THE future, then I feel like what was the point of reading the entire series? And what is the point of reading the last book? I already know that Rand will be victorious, but what is the point of him being victorious, if the Seanchan will destroy the White Tower, destroy the Aiel, and generally take over the world? To me, the Seanchan winning is NOT a happy ending for Randland. If that happens, I feel like what is the point of all of Egwene's reforms of the Aes Sedai; the new ties among the Aes Sedai, the Wise Ones, and the Windfinders; and all of the new Talents with the power such as Nynaeve's Healing and Elayne's manufacturing of ter'angreal? If the Seanchan are going to win and leash all women channelers (and presumably continue to kill all male channelers, because they probably won't believe that saidin has been cleansed), then really, what was the point of all that?

 

On the other hand, if Aviendha saw only a possible future, then there is at least some hope. But still, even if she can stop the Aiel from going to war with the Seanchan, it seems inevitable that the Seanchan, with their superior military and their damane, would eventually conquer the remainder of Randland and eventually pull down the White Tower and the Black Tower anyway.

 

So I guess that this sequence just made me feel that even if A Memory of Light has a positive ending, it will really be a negative ending, because we have seen the future, and everything goes to hell within several more generations.

 

(I do have to say though that this sequence was extremely well written. Kudos to Brandon Sanderson if he did write this sequence, and I suspect that he did.)

 

5. I am so very thankful to Brandon Sanderson for finishing this series, and overall he did a tremendous job with these most recent two books. But his very informal style of prose just isn't to my taste. From his constant use of contractions (particularly "you'd," "he'd," "she'd," etc.), to his frequent use of "a lot," to his occasional use of the phrase "been played" (a colloquialism that probably didn't even exist at the time that TEoTW was published), there were many times that my focus was pulled away from the story and onto my annoyance with the prose itself. However, I will say that Brandon had some fine moments in this book, ones that I am reasonably sure that he wrote rather than Jordan. The letter from Mat to Elayne in particular was brilliant, and had me laughing out loud. (Or should I say "laffing"?) ;-)

 

6. Prior to the publication of ToM, Brandon had given some hints to a particular "big unnoticed thing" that was first introduced somewhere in books 4 to 6, that virtually no one had discussed, but that played a big role in this book. I remember that one popular and credible theory (prior to ToM's publication) was that this clue referred to the "unseen eyes" in the World of Dreams. However, after reading the book, I'm guessing that it referred to the significance of Mat's ashandarei, and how no one ever seemed to have noticed that it didn't fit with any of his three requests to the Eelfinn. I never really thought about why the Eelfinn gave him the ashandarei, but now that I know the true significance of it, I wonder why I never thought about it!

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Many of the things you questioned have been discussed quite a bit... Perrin's timeline in particular. BS basically said he did his best with it as originally, the last 3 books were planned to be one big book. It's just kind of how it all came together and he admits he wished that there was a better way to do it. A big part of it, he said was that The Gathering Storm needed to be a "home run" and had he just wrote it chronologically, I imagine that a lot of us would have been complaining that not much happened.

 

Anyhow, the main question I wanted to respond to is #4. We don't know that if it's a possible future or if it IS the future. That's been discussed and we haven't come up with definite answer. As for how it pertains to the last battle, that part we do know. If Rand loses, then all prophecies & visions are null & void because there is no pattern. If the DO wins, there is nothing.

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4. Aviendha's visions of the future of the Aiel, with them being slowly obliterated by the Seanchan, really disturbed me. I am anxious to read some discussions about this, but here are my thoughts: Either she saw THE future, or she saw a possible future. If it was THE future, then I feel like what was the point of reading the entire series? And what is the point of reading the last book? I already know that Rand will be victorious, but what is the point of him being victorious, if the Seanchan will destroy the White Tower, destroy the Aiel, and generally take over the world? To me, the Seanchan winning is NOT a happy ending for Randland. If that happens, I feel like what is the point of all of Egwene's reforms of the Aes Sedai; the new ties among the Aes Sedai, the Wise Ones, and the Windfinders; and all of the new Talents with the power such as Nynaeve's Healing and Elayne's manufacturing of ter'angreal? If the Seanchan are going to win and leash all women channelers (and presumably continue to kill all male channelers, because they probably won't believe that saidin has been cleansed), then really, what was the point of all that?

 

The Wheel turns. The Wheel isn't inherently good or evil when it comes to what men do to each other, it's about balance. That type of good and evil is different from the ultimate, destructive evil of the Shadow that seeks to destroy everything. The "Raven Empire" may evolve into a more open society over time.

 

That doesn't mean it's true, but if it does, I don't think it negates everything.

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I too had a similar feeling after reading avi's visions in ToM.

I've said in many posts since that it very nearly spoilt the series for me.

 

And i agree with the said points about Perrins time line.

But what baffles me is why Perrin seems surprised when Grady tells him that saidin is clean. Didn't the Asha'man already tell him in KoD, and he didn't believe them?

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1. How did Cadsuane make a gateway to Perrin's army to get Tam al'Thor? I really thought that the dreamspike was already in place by the time that we see Tam tell Perrin that he has to leave, so that a gateway should not have worked then. Is this a hole in the plot, or am I mistaken about the timing of the dreamspike?

 

2. The timeline in the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the book was very confusing. Of course Perrin being many days behind the other characters was the biggest problem (more on that below). But even with Egwene, Gawyn, Elayne, Mat, and Rand, it was hard to keep track of when various events happened in relation to each other. For a while, I actually wondered if this was done on purpose, as a way of emphasizing the Dark One's touch on the world. After all, if he can re-arrange corridors within buildings, perhaps he can re-arrange time itself.

 

That's a good catch with Cad's gateway. We can only assume that Slayer had moved the dreamspike, or switched it off temporarily, or they placed the gateway just outside...

 

As far as the timelines go, then yes, it does get very confusing, but Perrin's is fairly easy to get the hang of, have you looked at Mat's in any detail yet? It seems ok at first glance...

There are several chronologies out there to help:

Steven Cooper's - is the one to start with

morat'corlm - here

I have one too - here

The thing to bear in mind is that none of them are free from errors and a lot of the dates are arguable

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I am a very big critic of Sanderson's ''style''...Very big. However, one thing that amuses me greatly every time it happens is when I - or others - will wince at a part in TGS/TOM that just sounds waaaay too colloquial, modern or informal - and then I find an example of some very similar phrasing in an early WOT book written by Jordan! LOL.

 

In fact, I think a Thread of its own may be deserved on this topic, but for here I will list just a few examples:

 

1 In Book 5, TFOH, Mat mentions that things got ''Hairy'' ...in fact his exact words are ''Things got REALLY Hairy'' - LOL...That sounds like something Id hear the kids say down at Starbucks! If Mat used that phrase in TGS or TOM Sanderson would be getting FRIED over it. My point is, there WERE examples in early Jordan WOT books where Jordan himself sometimes jarred me by randomly using a fairly modern, casual turn of phrase. I can actually think of several times in early books where Mat says or thinks phrases like ''No way''...''Not a chance''...''Things got really hairy''...''that deal''....all veeeery modern, casual slang that if Sanderson wrote...he'd be executed for on the spot, lol!

 

2 Mat's first dialogue in TGS featuring his litany to Talmanes on women, drinking and gambling has often been called ''painful''to read, HOWEVER, on a recent reread I've noticed that Mat has EXTREMELY similar thoughts on women, drinking and gambling in Book 5 and Book 7. Sanderson has also said that the notes left by RJ himself instructed that Mat was to be almost ''forcing'' himself to try and re-adopt his pre-Tuon personality as a way of denying and dealing with much that had happened to him (namely his marriage)...So, for people that say ''Thats not Mat''....well, actually, its almost like B.S. almost directly lifted that part from Books 5 and 7. Everytime I reread this part in TGS I grow more and more forgiving of Sanderson here. And it starts to sound more and more like Mat. I know, that's practically sacreligious to say here.

 

3 I have read complaints that the ''Tower of Ghenji'' chapters in TOM were a letdown and would have been much better ''if Jordan had written them.'' ... Guess what? Brandon has confirmed that Jordan DID write them. I personally enjoyed them. I thought they were a BIT lacking...but after so many years of anticipation, those chapters would have been almost impossible to NOT be a letdown. Expectations were too high.

 

4 I have read that the reason ''Mat is a lot better in TOM'' is because ''Jordan wrote most of Mat in TOM'' ... Jordan DID write much of it, yes, but what I think is funny is I often see ''A Seven-Striped Lass'' cited as the example of Mat ''back in form'' (and I personally DID feel that that particular chapter WAS an excellent, excellent ''Mat Chapter') and Brandon has confirmed that HE - not Jordan - wrote that chapter.

 

5 Mat's letter in TOM to Elayne. People seem to either love it or hated it. I certainly DID NOT CARE FOR IT..but I didn't HATE it. I will say, for the Haters, that Mat wrote a ''letter'' almost WORD FOR WORD THE SAME to Nynaeve in Book 7.

 

I guess what I am saying is...Brandon isn't perfect, and, in fact, he makes me wince quite a bit. But hes doing a good job, and I think we all - myself included - have been mistaken many times when we've said ''Jordan would NEVER have used that phrase'' - or that something was ''obviously'' written by Sanderson or Jordan and not the other.

 

Just my thoughts.

 

 

Fish

Edited by The Fisher King
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Hi everyone,

 

Thanks for reading my huge post and for your kind replies. It took me a couple of days to get back here and reply.

 

 

Many of the things you questioned have been discussed quite a bit... Perrin's timeline in particular. BS basically said he did his best with it as originally, the last 3 books were planned to be one big book. It's just kind of how it all came together and he admits he wished that there was a better way to do it. A big part of it, he said was that The Gathering Storm needed to be a "home run" and had he just wrote it chronologically, I imagine that a lot of us would have been complaining that not much happened.

Yes, I have read Brandon's reasoning for why the split was done the way it was done, and I do understand. But I think it would have been better at least to group more of Perrin's chapters toward the beginning of ToM. It seems that Brandon prefers skipping around between viewpoints, rather than staying on one viewpoint for four or five chapters in a row (as RJ often did), so maybe that's why ToM is not front-loaded with Perrin chapters. [EDIT: Actually, I should say that RJ often stayed on the same group of characters for several chapters in a row, which is not necessarily quite the same as staying on the same viewpoint for several chapters in a row.] In some ways, I actually like the frequent skipping around of viewpoints better than RJ's approach, but I think that in this case it contributed to the timeline confusion.

 

 

The Wheel turns. The Wheel isn't inherently good or evil when it comes to what men do to each other, it's about balance. That type of good and evil is different from the ultimate, destructive evil of the Shadow that seeks to destroy everything. The "Raven Empire" may evolve into a more open society over time.

 

That doesn't mean it's true, but if it does, I don't think it negates everything.

I understand what you are saying about the philosophy behind the world of the Wheel of Time. But for me, if what Aviendha saw is the future of Randland, then for me it does negate any happy ending that may come at the end of AMoL. But that's for me; others may see it differently.

 

 

And i agree with the said points about Perrins time line.

But what baffles me is why Perrin seems surprised when Grady tells him that saidin is clean. Didn't the Asha'man already tell him in KoD, and he didn't believe them?

I seem to remember reading somewhere (maybe from Brandon on Twitter?) that Brandon is aware now that this was a continuity error. Perrin indeed did already know about the cleansing (or at least he had been told; I don't recall if he believed or not).

Edited by Paul H
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As far as the timelines go, then yes, it does get very confusing, but Perrin's is fairly easy to get the hang of, have you looked at Mat's in any detail yet? It seems ok at first glance...

There are several chronologies out there to help:

Steven Cooper's - is the one to start with

morat'corlm - here

I have one too - here

The thing to bear in mind is that none of them are free from errors and a lot of the dates are arguable

Thanks for the timeline links. I have been aware of Steven Cooper's timeline for quite a few years now, and have found it to be an excellent resource. I see that he hasn't updated it yet for ToM though. I may check out the other links when I have time.

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Fisher King,

 

Very interesting post, and I agree with much of it.

 

1 In Book 5, TFOH, Mat mentions that things got ''Hairy'' ...in fact his exact words are ''Things got REALLY Hairy'' - LOL...That sounds like something Id hear the kids say down at Starbucks! If Mat used that phrase in TGS or TOM Sanderson would be getting FRIED over it. My point is, there WERE examples in early Jordan WOT books where Jordan himself sometimes jarred me by randomly using a fairly modern, casual turn of phrase. I can actually think of several times in early books where Mat says or thinks phrases like ''No way''...''Not a chance''...''Things got really hairy''...''that deal''....all veeeery modern, casual slang that if Sanderson wrote...he'd be executed for on the spot, lol!

I hear what you're saying, though for me dialogue is one thing, and non-dialogue narrative prose is another matter entirely.

 

2 Mat's first dialogue in TGS featuring his litany to Talmanes on women, drinking and gambling has often been called ''painful''to read, HOWEVER, on a recent reread I've noticed that Mat has EXTREMELY similar thoughts on women, drinking and gambling in Book 5 and Book 7. Sanderson has also said that the notes left by RJ himself instructed that Mat was to be almost ''forcing'' himself to try and re-adopt his pre-Tuon personality as a way of denying and dealing with much that had happened to him (namely his marriage)...So, for people that say ''Thats not Mat''....well, actually, its almost like B.S. almost directly lifted that part from Books 5 and 7. Everytime I reread this part in TGS I grow more and more forgiving of Sanderson here. And it starts to sound more and more like Mat. I know, that's practically sacreligious to say here.

Yeah, I thought that Mat's chapters in TGS were a bit off, but they didn't bother me nearly as much as they seem to have bothered some other readers.

 

3 I have read complaints that the ''Tower of Ghenji'' chapters in TOM were a letdown and would have been much better ''if Jordan had written them.'' ... Guess what? Brandon has confirmed that Jordan DID write them. I personally enjoyed them. I thought they were a BIT lacking...but after so many years of anticipation, those chapters would have been almost impossible to NOT be a letdown. Expectations were too high.

I was almost certain that RJ did write those chapters, just based on the style of the prose in the chapters. It just seems obvious to me that Brandon Sanderson did not write the prose in those chapters.

 

And I loved those chapters. Now, the part about Mat losing his eye was a bit anti-climactic to me, since I have been reasonably sure it was coming for, oh, probably well over ten years now. But overall they were great. Mat's dawning realization that he had been holding the "key" to get out the entire time was handled exceptionally well.

 

4 I have read that the reason ''Mat is a lot better in TOM'' is because ''Jordan wrote most of Mat in TOM'' ... Jordan DID write much of it, yes, but what I think is funny is I often see ''A Seven-Striped Lass'' cited as the example of Mat ''back in form'' (and I personally DID feel that that particular chapter WAS an excellent, excellent ''Mat Chapter'' and Brandon has confirmed that HE - not Jordan - wrote that chapter.

I agree that Brandon did a great job with Mat (and really with all the characters) in ToM. And I thought it was clear that Brandon did write many of the Mat chapters (though not the Tower Ghenji chapters).

 

5 Mat's letter in TOM to Elayne. People seem to either love it or hated it. I certainly DID NOT CARE FOR IT..but I didn't HATE it. I will say, for the Haters, that Mat wrote a ''letter'' almost WORD FOR WORD THE SAME to Nynaeve in Book 7.

You can put me in the "loved it" camp, though I can also see how some people would think it just wasn't quite right. I had a few moments of thinking that it was a bit off, but then I quickly changed my mind and decided it was too funny not to like. :-)

 

I guess what I am saying is...Brandon isn't perfect, and, in fact, he makes me wince quite a bit. But hes doing a good job, and I think we all - myself included - have been mistaken many times when we've said ''Jordan would NEVER have used that phrase'' - or that something was ''obviously'' written by Sanderson or Jordan and not the other.

Point taken, and you're probably right. However, the one thing that bothers me the most about Sanderson (the use of "he'd," "she'd," etc. frequently in non-dialogue prose) is something that I know Jordan did either never or rarely. But this one particular Sanderson-ism probably doesn't bother most people at all.

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